Beyond Features and Benefits
Elmore Leonard began as an ad writer and then became a multiple best-selling novelist. He wrote 45 novels, 18 of which were made into movies, and his final work became the TV series Justified. (See the clips below. – Indy)
Here are three of Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing:
1. Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. In Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things. Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.
Elmore Leonard knew that people are attracted to people. That’s why he advises writers to quit talking about physical attributes (features and benefits) and talk about people’s actions and reactions and motives instead. When you talk about features and benefits, your ads feel like ads. And guess what? People hate ads.
Museums know that people are attracted to people. Were you aware that more people stop to look at art that has people in it? And that they look at it longer? In your ads, talk about people – their actions and reactions and motives – and more people will stop, and look, and listen to what you are saying. You will become more successful and make more money and everyone will admire you. Sound good? Do you have the courage to ignore all the little self-appointed marketing experts that work in the media when they tell you that you’re “doing it wrong”? Of course you do! Because you’re awesome and I believe in you. Now go write your origin story and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you something weird and wonderful and worthless from my closet. Be sure to include your mailing address. – Indy Beagle